The Puzzle Piece & SPARC

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I wanted to post this before releasing the next workshop flyer, because this symbol has gotten a very mixed reaction from the autism community…and rightfully so.

The puzzle piece has become a standard symbol for autism worldwide, from representing entire organizations to being featured on necklaces and bumper stickers. For both sides of the coin, it symbolizes autism being a bit of a mystery, a puzzle to be solved and completed. For some, it represents hope that answers may be found. For others, it is dismissive of their lives and experiences.

For SPARC and its mission, it represents something entirely different.

The purpose of SPARC is to educate, and though we don’t adopt the puzzle piece as our symbol (nor will we ever do so), we embrace a different meaning for it.

For SPARC, the puzzle represents connecting the pieces for minority communities.

It means connecting “stranded” families to resources and assistance.

It means establishing support systems for those on the spectrum and their caregivers in these communities.

It means linking a community together in awareness, acceptance, affirmation, and advocacy.

So, when you see the puzzle piece on any flyers or marketing for SPARC, know that it carries a completely different meaning for us. It doesn’t represent autism itself, but rather represents underserved communities being given much needed tools to assist with autism.

Spectrum: A Story of the Mind

I strongly encourage everyone to watch this video, because it is amazing. I agree with Dr. Grandin in this film; we should focus on the sensory input just as much, if not more, than the social skills when it comes to autism treatment. It’s about 23 minutes long, but so worth it. I may make this required viewing for my workshops in the future; I like it that much.

Also, the last adult interviewed in the film is Nick Walker, one of the first autistic adults that I had ever met. I actually had him look over my thesis proposal (which was about autism and multiple intelligence) some years ago. He was also the first person to make it clear to me that most adults like himself refer to themselves as autistic, not “a person on the spectrum.” I was pleasantly surprised to see him in this, and yes, he is very good at Aikido!

If the embedded video does not appear (it was acting funny while I was writing the post), then the direct link is also below.

Spectrum: A Story of the Mind

Autism Month

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You probably noticed that I didn’t say “Autism Awareness Month” or “Autism Acceptance Month.”

Over the course of the past few weeks, while others were shouting about this month from the rooftops, I was pretty quiet. There were two reasons: for one, some major changes were happening personally as I shifted my entire focus to this business. Second, I honestly wasn’t sure of what to say.  Listening to numerous families recently helped me find something to say.

For many communities in my country (the United States), both awareness and acceptance are still minimal. You may think that by now everyone knows all about autism, but this is not the case. Hardly. So, I cannot just call it an awareness or acceptance month, because neither has been achieved in the communities that I wish to serve.

I’m not really going to say much more, because I want to recognize the voices of autism itself. I highlighted some of these folks last year, and I want to do that again this year. Below are the blogs and Instagram pages of autistic individuals and families with autistic members that I follow or like to read. Please read their posts, content, and experiences, because they can say far more than I ever could!

Also, if you want to add your voice to the list this month, comment below and I will update this post with your Instagram page, website, or blog through April 30th. If I get enough blogs/profiles, I may create a permanent list on this site!

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/astimmypuzzlepiece/

https://www.instagram.com/girlonthespectrum/

https://www.instagram.com/amirbetv

 

Blogs/Sites:

https://davidsnape.me

https://neurodivergentrebel.com

Video: Autism in the Workplace

This is a video from CBS about some of the programs major companies like Microsoft and SAP are using to invite and grow autistic talent to them. I attended part of  last year’s Autism at Work conference mentioned in the video, and it was a very inspiring and informative experience. Here’s my blog post about that experience.

Thanks to @beautmindstalk for posting this, and for the follow!

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-growing-acceptance-of-autism-in-the-workplace/

The MI Series: Bodily-Kinesthetic

Occupational therapy has always been an interesting area to me, because of how much it covers. In my field, it deals with sensory, with knowing one’s physical space in the environment, and with using both gross and fine motor skills to achieve independence-related skills and goals. For the same reasons, the area of multiple intelligence called Bodily-Kinesthetic has also been interesting to me.

MI theory author Howard Gardner describes this area as being characterized by “controlling and orchestrating body motions and handling objects skillfully” (Human Intelligence, p.22). These are the individuals who have an almost uncanny control of their body and how it moves. They are also excellent at expressing themselves through it.

Naturally, many dancers easily fall into this category. I would also consider some actors to be in this category as well, particularly the overly physical ones. Martial artists and athletes can be included as well. Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Chan, and Misty Copeland are all examples.

For those on the autism spectrum, this area of intelligence can manifest in a different way…as a mechanism for calming, energizing, and organizing themselves. Jumping, swinging, running, rocking…these are all ways of making sense of the disorganization that their bodies often subject them to. They are needed strategies, sometimes disregarded or discouraged by those in our field, that help in day to day existence.

I wanted to leave you with a nod to some of my friends’ recent interests. There is a K-Pop (Korean pop) group called BTS making significant waves in the music industry across the planet, and their wave has now hit the States. I’ve watched a few of their performances, and many of them have an amazing command of this category of intelligence, even after being told in the past that they didn’t. The group practices up to 12 hours a day, and it shows. There some other intelligences at play in this video as well. Can you spot them?

We’ve made it through the main 8 areas, but there is one more that is still up for debate: Existential. That will be the final entry in this series. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, MusicalVerbal/Linguistic, or Logical/Mathematical,be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer, or contact me at sparcguidance@gmail.com.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

BK Overview (quick look at traits and possible career paths)

BK Intelligence (a slightly more detailed look at the BK Intelligence)

Video Credit: PopCrush on YouTube

The MI Series: Logical/Mathematical

In all of Howard Gardner’s areas of his Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory, this is the intelligence that I feel is most associated with autism by the general public. This is a category of specifics, of the concrete, so it makes sense that this would be an ideal area for those on the autism spectrum.

Gardner describes this intelligence as being characterized by “confronting and assessing objects and abstractions and discerning their relations and underlying principles” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). In other words, logical/mathematical focuses on the ability to see the relationships between objects or items and what those relationships involve. As one could guess, this could easily involve a number of fields and areas of study.

One of the best examples of this intelligence in an autistic individual would be Jacob “Jake” Barnett. I first learned about him through his mother Kristine’s book, The Spark, a couple of years ago. Jake is now 19, has led TED talks, and is one of the youngest astrophysicists in the world (if not the youngest). In the beginning, though, experts in the autism field told his parents only of his limitations and what he would never be able to do. His mother decided to fuel his budding interest in science, and Jake blossomed into a highly intelligent, verbal, and well-adjusted young man. His areas of multiple intelligence are firmly in the logical/mathematical category.

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Naturally, scientists of all types and mathematicians fall easily into the logical/mathematical categories. Another great example in this category is Albert Einstein, who has long been suspected of being on the autism spectrum himself. It can easily fold into other areas of intelligence like spatial and naturalistic.

The next category up will be Bodily-Kinesthetic. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, Musical, or Verbal/Linguistic, be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

Overview of Logical/Mathematical intelligence (quick overview on the intelligence area/learners in this area)

Checklist of the characteristics and careers for those in Logical/Mathematical

 

 

Photo Credit: The Plaid Zebra’s article on Jacob

The MI Series: Verbal/Linguistic

I hope my U.S. readers enjoyed their Thanksgiving break! I took it off as well, and now I’m back with another intelligence category that is near and dear to my heart: verbal/linguistic.

The MI theory’s author, Howard Gardner, has a simple definition for this intelligence: “A mastery and love of language and words with a desire to explore them” (Human Intelligencep. 22). Those of us who consider ourselves to be writers embody this definition. We adore words, love to learn about all kinds of words, and often use them for no reason other than the fact that they are there to use so…why not? Language is beautiful to us, and learning a new way to express ourselves with it is an amazing, beautiful rush.

Naturally, writers of all kinds fall into this intelligence: fiction, non-fiction, poets, rappers, speechwriters, and often journalists. I think that public and motivational speakers fall into this one as well, since their command of the language is just expressed verbally instead of in written form.

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So, can autism find a place in this intelligence? Absolutely. Some of the best wordsmiths I’ve encountered online how been autistic writers on their blogs. It can often be easier to express in writing what cannot be easily said; I myself find writing easier sometimes than speaking. All of us seem to notice a similar small drawback, though, especially in fiction writing: the written word can sometimes restrict what we see in our mind’s eye.

The next category up will be Logical-Mathematical. If you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, IntrapersonalNaturalistic, or Musical, be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

EduNova Verbal/Linguistic post (great overview of this intelligence)

Connection Academy on “Word Smarts” (there’s a great example of how to carryover a verbal/linguistic skill into other areas of intelligence)

 

Photo Credit: YouTube video on Verbal/Linguistic intelligence

Do paraprofessionals need more training?

The article below is a heartbreaking one, especially since I have been witness to negative behavior but unable to do anything about it because it was coming from someone above me on the chain of command. It raises an interesting question: do paraprofessionals get enough training?

I have noticed a trend of younger and younger staff being brought onto autism organizations to act as specialists, interventionists, and techs. At one point, I saw many positions on the front lines only needing a high school diploma, and the pay reflected this as well (and sadly, I have learned, still does). They are quickly trained on the basics of the therapeutic approach, some bit on autism, and then released into the wild. I have seen new hires come to me looking like deer in highlights after a week into the position. Despite all of their “training,” they know little about the actual in and outs of autism, and may have little to no direct experience.

That’s not to say that with guidance, they can’t learn. I can think of one young man in particular who I got to interview for a Behavioral Interventionist position. He didn’t have much experience with autism, but he wanted to learn. The dude was a sponge, soaking up everything those of us with experience told him. Within 6 months, he became an amazing BI.

Still, I saw so many bail on the job after a few months (or get fired) because they couldn’t handle it. They at least had the insight to know that this wasn’t for them. The scariest ones to me are the ones like the aide in the article, the ones who either don’t care or have several chips on their shoulders.

Despite all of our knowledge and experience, I still believe that the parents are the ones who know their kids best. I cringe whenever someone in the field says that “we’re the experts.” That’s my second least favorite statement, right next to “fix them.”

In any case, this is an open question. Do you feel that the paraprofessionals in the autism field need more autism training? Is there another solution to keep stories like this from happening?

My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help Me

Here is another article discussing the issue from Psychology Today: The Para-professional-Student Relationship

The MI Series: Musical

Have you ever met someone who could play a Top 40 song by ear on an instrument…after hearing the song one time? I have met toddlers who were non-verbal, but could sing and hum in harmony with me whenever I sang. These individuals have high Musical Intelligence.

Musical intelligence is defined by Howard Gardner as “a competence not only in composing and performing pieces with pitch, rhythm and timbre but also in listening and discerning” (Human Intelligence, p. 22). He added that this intelligence may also blend in with linguistic, spatial, and bodily-kinesthetic. The blending makes sense, as the other three all have aspects that can be found in music. Beethoven and John Coltrane are both included in this category.

Musicians of all types fall safety into this intelligence category. It also includes composers, conductors, and in my opinion, producers as well. All of them have an ear for what sounds good, can write/create amazing pieces, and feel at their best when doing it.

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There is debate on whether or not autistic individuals who can perfectly duplicate musical pieces are truly showing musical intelligence, as it is argued that they are simply mimicking. Still, in order to mimic, one has to have the aforementioned ear to catch all the nuances within the piece. What can be debated is whether or not the ability to create original pieces of music is included in the definition of musical intelligence. Gardner’s definition above makes no reference to such a prerequisite, but it is one I have heard pop up often in autism circles. Personally, I feel that every example I’ve given in this entry is of musical intelligence!

Next, I will look at another favorite of mine, Verbal-Linguistic. Also, if you missed my entires on Spatial, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, or Naturalistic, be sure to check those out as well. As always, you can go to my Classes page to see what services I offer.

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

Brainboxx Musical Intelligence (take note of the blurb about the slave child)

ThoughtCo piece (which brings up another interesting debate about musical intelligence)

 

Photo credit: Buzzle article on Musical Intelligence

 

The MI Series: Naturalistic

This week covers another sometimes less-than-obvious area of intelligence: Naturalistic. Though it is often overlooked, I think there are a vast number of people who fit nicely into this type of intelligence, both on the autism spectrum and off.

Naturalistic, according to Multiple Intelligence (MI) theory author Howard Gardner, involves “recognizing and categorizing natural objects” (Gardner, Exploring Intelligence, p.22). I will take this a step further and include individuals who have an uncanny connection to nature, and those who help bridge the gap between nature and humans. John James Audubon and Jane Goodall could be included in this group, along with biologists and naturalists.

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Many of my clients have responded very positively to having pets or being out in nature. I have often watched some of them gaze at the stars, smile as the wind blows through the trees, or happily attempt to chat up a nearby squirrel.

Nature is more than just living art to those who are high in this area of intelligence. They feel a connection and a need to understand it. They can be recharged by spending time in the natural world, be it a hike, scuba diving, or gardening. These nature lovers enjoy sharing their knowledge with others, so I would consider park rangers and tour guides to be part of this category. Also included are those who fight for animal rights and environmental protection/preservation. Bottom line: there is a love/respect of nature, a desire to understand and protect it, and a goal of helping others to appreciate it.

Next week (or more likely the end of this week), we will examine Musical Intelligence.

 

Additional Reading

Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner. BasicBooks, 1983.

Naturalist Intelligence (a brief write-up on the intelligence area)

The 8th Intelligence (great explantation of Gardner, and early signs of a child having Naturalistic Intelligence)

 

Photo credit: Polk State College